How Is Methadone Treatment Any Different Than Opiate Abuse?

The role methadone treatment plays in opiate addiction recovery continues to be contested in terms of its actual effectiveness as a treatment approach. Methadone treatment combines the effects of methadone, an opiate-based drug, with behavioral treatment interventions to address both the physical and psychological aftereffects of chronic opiate addiction. Methadone’s classification as an opiate drug calls into question its actual role as a “treatment” drug.

Compared to chronic opiate abuse, methadone’s intended effects work to alleviate much of the physical and emotional distress recovering addicts experience in the recovery process. Rather than “substituting one addiction for another” methadone plays a supportive role in helping the brain recover from the damaging effects of long-term opiate abuse.

The Damaging Effects of Opiate Addiction

Different Than Opiate Abuse

Depression is a residual withdrawal effect many recovering opiate addicts experience.

Opiate addiction rates have reached epidemic proportions over the past decade. Opiate addiction relapse rates also run unusually high due to the long-reaching effects of these drugs, even after drug use ends.

People coming off long-term opiate addictions are left with a brain that can’t function normally without the drug. According to Harvard Health Publications, brain cells have undergone considerable structural damage causing widespread chemical imbalances to prevail throughout the brain and central nervous system.

These conditions leave a person to deal with ongoing withdrawal-type effects that can persist for years into the recovery process. Symptoms experienced include:

  • Inability to get a good night’s rest
  • Irritability
  • Lack of joy or contentment
  • Mood swings
  • Depression

These residual withdrawal effects account for why it’s so difficult for recovering addicts to maintain abstinence on an ongoing basis.

Call our helpline at 800-891-9360(Who Answers?) to see if your insurance will help cover your treatment costs.

Opiate Abuse vs. Methadone Treatment

Frequent and ongoing opiate abuse has a cumulative effect on the brain, disrupting its chemical environment while damaging cell structures along the way. Over time, opiate abuse turns the brain into an opiate dependent environment that can no longer carry out its regulatory functions without the effects of the drug. This state of decline will only worsen with continued opiate abuse.

Methadone’s “opiate” effects are specifically formulated to be slow acting, with one dose able to last anywhere from 24 to 36 hours as opposed to the frequent “hits” or “fixes” addicts must ingest in order to ward off withdrawal. This slow acting mechanism greatly reduces methadone’s addiction potential.

Both addictive opiates and methadone work by stimulating neurotransmitter production in the brain. With opiate abuse, brain cell structures undergo damage from being overworked causing increasing chemical imbalances, whereas methadone’s slow acting effects support damaged cell structures while helping restore a normal chemical balance in the brain.

What Safeguards Are Used in Methadone Maintenance Treatment to Prevent Methadone Abuse?


According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the degree of damage left behind by chronic opiate abuse will continue to work against a person’s efforts in recovery unless he or she receives some form of treatment support.

In spite of methadone’s classification as an opiate, its role as an opiate addiction treatment medication works to support damaged brain cell structures and restore chemical balance in the brain. Continued opiate abuse only works to make a bad situation worse.

If you or someone you know is considering methadone treatment and need help finding a program that meets your treatment needs, please don’t hesitate to call our toll-free helpline at 800-891-9360(Who Answers?) to speak with one of our addictions specialists.

How Our Helpline Works

For those seeking addiction treatment for themselves or a loved one, the helpline is a private and convenient solution.

Calls to any general helpline (non-facility specific 1-8XX numbers) for your visit will be answered by American Addiction Centers (AAC).

We are standing by 24/7 to discuss your treatment options. Our representatives work solely for AAC and will discuss whether an AAC facility may be an option for you. Our helpline is offered at no cost to you and with no obligation to enter into treatment. Neither nor AAC receives any commission or other fee that is dependent upon which treatment provider a visitor may ultimately choose.

For more information on AAC’s commitment to ethical marketing and treatment practices, or to learn more about how to select a treatment provider, visit our About AAC page. If you wish to explore additional treatment options or connect with a specific rehab center, you can browse top-rated listings or visit SAMHSA.

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